The Cady Court: Same As It Ever Was?

First-person accounts of politically-oriented events are always welcome here. Thanks to IowaBadger for this perspective. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Chief Justice Mark Cady’s leadership of the Iowa Supreme Court has been bookended by two major cases. First came his unanimous majority opinion in the Varnum v. Brien decision recognizing marriage equality under the Iowa Constitution, resulting in the defeat of then Chief Justice Marsha Ternus (and two other justices) in the 2010 retention election, and Cady’s elevation to Chief Justice. Then, several weeks ago, was his 4-3 majority opinion in Griffin v. Pate, deciding that the Iowa Constitution’s prohibition against voting by anyone who has committed an "infamous crime" bars anyone with a felony conviction from voting, absent a restoration of voting rights from the governor.

Yesterday, the Des Moines Register held an event entitled "The Cady Court At Five," which gave five panelists the opportunity to talk about both cases, and how the court has gotten from one to the other. Anyone hoping for post July 4th fireworks would have been disappointed, and anyone hoping for definitive answers will have to heed desmoinesdem’s post from yesterday recognizing that we will only understand Justice Cady’s rationale for his vote in Griffin and its seeming inconsistency with his previous opinion in Chiodo v. Panel when he’s interviewed about it years down the road. But for those of us who follow the Iowa Supreme Court closely, we did gain some insight into the Chief Justice’s thinking and what that might mean for future decisions.

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Watchdog filed IRS complaint against dark money group run by Chris Rants

An advocacy group run by former Iowa House Speaker Chris Rants "is operating with the primary purpose of influencing political campaigns" in violation of federal tax code, according to the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

Last month CREW filed Internal Revenue Service complaints against ten 501(c)(4) groups, which claim non-profit status as "social welfare" organizations but spent a large share of their funds on political activity during the 2014 election cycle. One of them was the Iowa-based Legacy Foundation Action Fund, for which Rants serves as president and secretary. (The fund did not seek to influence any Iowa elections in 2014.) CREW also filed criminal complaints against six of the ten groups for "falsely representing the amount of money they spent on political activity in 2014"; the Legacy Foundation Action Fund was not among them.

Although Rants’s 501(c)(4) does not disclose its donors, CREW was able to determine that most of its 2014 funding came from American Encore, a "secretive" 501(c)(4) group "formerly known as the Center to Protect Patient Rights." American Encore has been described as "the linchpin" of the Koch brothers dark money network. The Legacy Foundation Action Fund reported $980,000 in "contributions and grants" on its 2014 tax return; $880,000 of that amount came from American Encore.

More details on CREW’s IRS complaint are below. Rants responded via e-mail, "I am confident that Legation Foundation Action Fund is in compliance with the IRS rules. Legal counsel is reviewing the tax returns and we will file any amendment necessary to ensure the tax returns accurately reflected the organizations actives."

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The Iowa Republican blog has ceased regular publication

Craig Robinson has stopped publishing regularly at The Iowa Republican and plans to transform the site into a personal blog, he told Bleeding Heartland yesterday. Robinson has been the publisher and primary author at Iowa’s most widely-read conservative political website since its launch in 2009. Other writers have been regular contributors over the years, but since early 2015, The Iowa Republican has published press releases or pieces by Robinson himself. Updates became noticeably less frequent over the past year, compared to the blog’s output during the 2011-2012 Iowa caucus campaign and GOP primary season.

The last new post at the site was a May 9 commentary by Robinson, who took shots at Republicans unhappy about Donald Trump becoming the likely presidential nominee. In keeping with past practice, the author did not mention that the Trump campaign did more than $116,000 in business with the Global Intermediate direct mail firm, for which Robinson serves as president.

Via e-mail, Robinson explained that he will likely continue to publish occasional opinion pieces at The Iowa Republican but has "no time table" for when that may begin. He may also use the site "to promote Global Intermediate’s capabilities to readers and potential clients." As for disclosing his side work for political campaigns to the many national reporters who quote him about Republican happenings (most recently Matt Viser in the Boston Globe), Robinson sees connecting those dots as the journalist’s responsibility: "I don’t think its necessary for me to provide a list of current and former clients, anytime I have been asked I have been forthcoming. I have hosted CNN, FOX News, NBC, ABC and a handful of local news outlets at my Global office for the past couple of years, I’m not exactly hiding from anyone."

I enclose below more excerpts from our e-mail correspondence, some passages from the May 9 post at The Iowa Republican, and details on Global Intermediate’s work for the Trump campaign to date.

Iowa is universally acknowledged to be in play this fall. All signs point to Trump investing significant resources here; he needs the six electoral votes and has hired our governor’s son as his state director. Whether or not Global Intermediate produces any more direct mail for the GOP nominee, national journalists seeking local Republican commentary should identify Robinson as someone who has done work for the Trump campaign—not only as a former Iowa GOP political director and publisher of The Iowa Republican blog, as has been standard media practice up to now.

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Weekend open thread: Iowa Democratic state convention edition

Many Bleeding Heartland readers spent a large part of their weekend at Hy-Vee Hall in Des Moines, where the Iowa Democratic Party held its Hall of Fame event on Friday and its state convention on Saturday. Although delegates were given electronic devices to speed the voting along, convention business dragged on past midnight. UPDATE: I am told the convention adjourned at 2:16 am.

In an organizing triumph, supporters of Hillary Clinton filled all of their delegate slots, while only about 85 percent of the Bernie Sanders delegates turned up. But only about ten delegates chosen as Sanders supporters switched their allegiance to Clinton yesterday, even after a second realignment. According to John Deeth, more than 70 additional people would have had to switch to give Clinton an extra Democratic National Convention delegate from Iowa. So thanks to the Sanders delegates’ loyalty, Clinton received the expected number of 23 national delegates, Sanders 21. Adding Iowa’s superdelegates to the mix, Clinton ends up with 29 DNC delegates to 21 for Sanders. The 51st Iowa DNC delegate is State Party Chair Andy McGuire, who will surely support Clinton in Philadelphia but is still maintaining a neutral stance.

Most of Iowa’s DNC delegates were chosen at last month’s district conventions. Electing the last few national delegates took hours yesterday, because votes in the Clinton and Sanders preference groups were split almost evenly among the many candidates who wanted to go to Philadelphia. Drake student and I-35 School Board member Josh Hughes won one of the male Clinton delegate slots, capping off a big month for the winner of Bleeding Heartland’s primary election prediction contest. I learned on Friday that Josh will be managing Andrea Phillips’ campaign in Iowa House district 37. Phillips is the Democratic challenger to John Landon in this seat covering parts of Ankeny and Alleman in northeast Polk County.

State convention delegates re-elected Scott Brennan and Sandy Opstvedt to the Democratic National Committee yesterday. In their speeches to the delegates, Brennan and Opstvedt emphasized their work to keep Iowa first in the nominating process. We’ll need all the help we can get next year, as there may be a strong push within the DNC to start the nominating process in states with more racial diversity than Iowa or New Hampshire, and to ban caucuses for the purposes of presidential selection.

Hundreds of delegates left before the final platform debates. (Tedious discussions over minor punctuation issues and whether to replace "people" with "human beings" had already taken up too much time during the afternoon session.) The Iowa Democratic Party state platform officially opposes superdelegates—not that DNC members will care what state platforms have to say on the matter. Language backing a "livable minimum wage" was changed to support a $15 per hour minimum wage. When the crowd had thinned out considerably, -delegates approved a plank to legalize all drugs.- CORRECTION: The legalization plank was included in the draft platform distributed to delegates before the convention. According to Jon Neiderbach, the late-night votes rejected two minority reports: one would have substituted "decriminalization" for legalization, the other would have kept the party platform silent on the issue. The legalization plank will probably become fodder for Republican campaign ads, even though I’m not aware of any Iowa Democratic candidates who hold this position. Pat Rynard commented, "doing stuff like this is the fastest way for Bernie people to get marginalized in the party."

UPDATE: Some have suggested the platform debate should have been shut off for lack of a quorum, given how many delegates left by midnight. But my understanding is that doing so would have left the drug legalization language from the draft platform intact. CLARIFICATION: Delegates had already approved the vast majority of the platform, containing non-controversial provisions, during the afternoon. So if quorum had been called late in the evening, the controversial planks including the one calling for drug legalization would have remained the recommendations of the platform committee but would not have been officially approved by the party.

SECOND UPDATE: Added below the Iowa Democratic Party’s official statement on the convention results, which includes the full list of DNC delegates. One of the national delegates for Sanders, Brent Oleson, was a Republican until less than a year ago.

Earlier in the day, Rynard covered the State Central Committee elections, which happened on Saturday morning. The committee will be almost evenly split between Clinton and Sanders supporters, though the last committee member (chosen on Saturday evening) may give Clinton backers a slight edge.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome. This past week I read many heartbreaking accounts of people who died in last weekend’s massacre at a gay club in Orlando. One of the most disturbing articles about the tragedy: mass murderer Omar Mateen was checking social media for reports on his killing spree while the crime was in progress. Last year Mark Follman published a must-read piece at Mother Jones about "How the Media Inspires Mass Shooters." I enclose below six recommendations for media reporting on mass shootings, "based on interviews with and research from threat assessment experts concerned about this issue." Another good read on the subject by Follman is "Inside the Race to Stop the Next Mass Shooter."

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Eric Branstad will run Donald Trump's campaign in Iowa

Governor Terry Branstad’s son Eric Branstad will manage Donald Trump’s general election campaign in Iowa, Tim Alberta reported for the National Review today, citing unnamed GOP sources. The younger Branstad told Alberta, "There’s nothing formal yet" and said he offered to serve in that capacity at a "leadership meeting" with Trump campaign officials last week.

Branstad runs Matchpoint Strategies, a "Public Affairs and Fundraising Firm ‘making the impossible happen’ for a wide range of clients – corporations, trade associations, governments and non-profit advocacy groups." He was state director for the pro-ethanol group America’s Renewable Future before this year’s Iowa caucuses, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on direct mail and advertising. A large portion of the money targeted Ted Cruz, at the time the front-runner with Iowa Republicans.

America’s Renewable Future did not endorse a presidential candidate, but Alberta quotes Republican sources who say Eric Branstad "spoke on Trump’s behalf" at his precinct caucus in Des Moines on February 1. In what some viewed as a "de facto" endorsement of Trump, Governor Branstad called on Iowans to defeat Cruz in mid-January. Since Trump locked up the delegates needed to win the GOP nomination, Branstad has repeatedly said he is fully behind the presumptive nominee. He also downplayed Trump’s recent comments about so-called "Mexican" Judge Gonzalo Curiel.

Eric Branstad’s job will be more important than that of most state campaign managers for Trump. Daily Kos user ncec1948 gamed out various November outcomes here. Every winning scenario for Trump relies on Iowa’s six electoral votes. I enclose below excerpts from ncec1948’s analysis but recommend clicking through to read the whole post. Most electoral vote projections currently list Iowa as a tossup, though some forecasters see our state leaning Democratic. Iowans have favored the Republican only once in the last seven presidential elections, when President George W. Bush barely defeated John Kerry here in 2004.

With the governor’s son running Trump’s effort here, down-ticket Iowa Republicans who would prefer to distance themselves from the nominee have an even more difficult balancing act ahead.

UPDATE: The Trump campaign confirmed the hire when contacted by the Des Moines Register’s Jason Noble. Eric Branstad told Noble, "I want to work with the campaign and share with Iowans what I’ve gotten to know, and that is how great of a leader and person Mr. Trump is." For his part, the governor said he was late to learn his son was under consideration for the job and "never really played a role" in helping him land the position.

Noble advanced the story while giving credit to the National Review for breaking the news about the Branstad hire. In contrast, Radio Iowa’s O.Kay Henderson reported the story without attribution or a link to Alberta’s post.

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Iowa House district 41: Jo Oldson's and Eddie Mauro's pitches to voters

UPDATE: Oldson won this race by a 67 percent to 33 percent margin.

One of the most closely-watched state legislative results tonight will be the contest between seven-term State Representative Jo Oldson and Democratic challenger Eddie Mauro in Iowa House district 41. The district covering parts of the west and south sides of Des Moines contains more than twice as many Democrats as Republicans, so the winner of today’s primary will almost certainly be elected in November, even if the GOP nominates a candidate late here. (No one filed in time to run in the GOP primary.)

Both campaigns have been working the phones and knocking on doors for months. Iowa’s two largest labor unions, AFSCME and the Iowa Federation of Labor, as well as the National Abortion Rights Action League have been doing GOTV for Oldson, as have a number of her fellow Iowa House Democrats. As of May 24, the early voting numbers in House district 41 were higher than for any other state House race.

Bleeding Heartland posted background on Oldson and Mauro here. I’ve encouraged my friends in the district to stick with Oldson. She has been a reliable progressive vote on major legislation, and she was among only thirteen House Democrats to vote against the costly and ineffective 2013 commercial property tax cut. I have no problem with an entrenched incumbent facing a primary challenge. No one is entitled to hold a legislative seat for life. But even if women were not already underrepresented in the Iowa House—which they are and will continue to be—I would need a better reason to replace a capable incumbent than the reasons Mauro has offered in his literature and in an interview with me last month. Excerpts from that interview are below, along with examples of campaign literature Democrats in House district 41 have been receiving in the mailbox and at the doorstep.

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